When it’s More Than Just Cough Early Detection of COPD Leads to Improved Quality of Life Diane Williams Hymons can’t remember when she first started noticing problems. “I’d have a coughing spell and it’s almost like my breath would be cut off,” says Hymons. Hymons is one of the more than 12 million Americans currently diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). An additional 12 million may have the disease and don't even know it. “I went to the doctor and they gave me medication for asthma.” explains Hymons, “Finally, I asked my doctor to refer me to the allergy department for some testing.” She was then referred to the pulmonary department, where the COPD was diagnosed. COPD is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe, causing an “out of breath” feeling. Other symptoms can include frequent coughing, excess mucus, and sometimes wheezing. When severe, shortness of breath can get in the way of even the most basic tasks. “When I would go dancing, I’d get out breath and I was known for being able to dance the night away,” says Hymons. “I gave up being a motorcycle rider because I could see me going into a coughing fit off the side of the road.” Most people with COPD are over 40 and have a history of smoking or long term exposure to fumes or dust in the environment. But 1 out of 6 people with COPD have never smoked. In some cases, there is a genetic tendency to develop COPD. The first step is getting an accurate diagnosis. A simple breathing test called spirometry can be done in your doctor’s office and helps your doctor determine if you have COPD and then decide on the best course of treatment. Many treatments are available to reduce symptoms, improve breathing, and help you get back to doing more of what you used to do. “I try to eat right, get my rest, relax, manage my stress, and don't get over anxious.” says Hymons. “I'm maintaining a healthy and positive attitude.” You can find out more at www.learnaboutcopd.org, part of a COPD awareness campaign from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.